DA not charging MVPD officers in fatal shooting

Posted

ALAMOSA — The Monte Vista Police Department officers involved in the fatal shooting of a teenager on March 21 will not be charged, according to 12th Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly.

A statement was released to the press on Monday afternoon. In it, Kelly announced that her office was not filing charges against MVPD officers Sgt. Michael Martinez and Cpl. David Pino for their use of force resulting in the death of Xavier Sanchez, 18, on March 21, 2023, outside a family residence in Monte Vista.

Kelly went on to cite the statute considered in publicizing her decision, “Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 20-1-114(1) ‘The district attorney shall, if no criminal charges are filed following the completion of an investigation pursuant to section 16-2.5-301, C.R.S., release a report and publicly disclose the report explaining the district attorney’s findings, including the basis for the decision not to charge the officer with any criminal conduct. The district attorney shall post the written report on its website or, if it does not have a website, make it publicly available upon request.’”

Kelly attached a copy of the summary report she sent to MVPD Chief George Dingfelder, informing him — as is protocol — that the investigation was complete and detailing the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s findings.

“I want to acknowledge the Monte Vista Police Department (“MVPD”) for immediately notifying CBI following the incident,” Kelly wrote. “By doing so, MVPD enabled CBI to quickly respond and conduct a thorough investigation. MVPD was not directly involved in the investigation of Sgt. Martinez and Cpl. Pino’s use of force.

“The CBI investigation was conducted,” she continues, “for the purpose of determining whether criminal charges are warranted…and does not evaluate nor review the appropriateness of police tactics, or whether policies and procedures were followed.

“My decision, based on criminal law standards, does not limit administrative action by MVPD or any civil action where less-stringent laws, rules, and levels of proof would apply. The authority and role of the District Attorney is to determine whether Sgt. Martinez and/or Cpl. Pino committed a criminal offense that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

What followed was a 17-page summary of the investigation that included 16 still photos taken from body cam footage worn by Martinez and Pino during the incident. Kelly also references her review of the file containing all the relevant documentation upon which her decision was based, including police reports from the agencies that responded,  including Saguache County, the Monte Vista Police Department, the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, and the Alamosa Police Department; interviews with both officers conducted by an agent with CBI and an investigator with Colorado State Patrol: and recording from radio traffic and 911 calls made related to the incident.

Finally, the file Kelly reviewed included numerous photographs of the interior of the house and the exterior where the shooting took place.

When asked by the Valley Courier why she chose to make public so many photos of the incident, including some that may be disturbing to view, Kelly said, “It was my decision and was based upon my obligation to include all the factual information that led to my conclusion. Obviously, I reviewed both the body cameras, and the evidence in the body cameras was the best evidence I could present. It’s one thing to document what I saw with my own words, but the best evidence here was actual evidence from the body camera.”

Kelly also told the Valley Courier that she notified the family of her decision last week. Although the Crime Victims Rights Act (VRA) does not mandate the family be notified in cases where charges are not filed, as is true in this case, Kelly says she is treating the situation with the same priority on advising the family of the decisions she has made and why.

“My heart goes out to the family and the community for this tragedy,” she said.

The Courier reached out to Xavier’s family for a reaction to the DA’s decision, but no response was received prior to going to press.